William Kerrigan

William Kerrigan

William Kerrigan is the Cole Distinguished Professor of American History at Muskingum University. He is the author of Johnny Appleseed and the American Orchard (Johns Hopkins, 2012) and co-author of several local histories.  He teaches courses on American History, Ohio History, the Civil War, and Environmental History.

The Apple’s American Journey
The modern apple has its origins in the mountains of Kazakhstan, where today whole forests of wild apples still grow.  But today the apple is a truly global fruit, traded and carried by migrants to temperate zones around the globe.  Yet Americans have embraced the apple as their national fruit, evidenced in the expression “as American as apple pie.” This this talk briefly explores the apple’s early global history, then examines the apple’s American journey: its role in European colonization of North America’s temperate zones and its journey westward across the United States in the 19th century. It concludes with a brief discussion of the apple’s place in the new global economy.

John Chapman’s Westward Journey

The legend of Johnny Appleseed is based upon the life of a real person.  Born into a poor Yankee family on the eve of the American Revolution, the young John Chapman headed west in the last years of the 18th century. This talk recovers the life of the “real” Johnny Appleseed, teasing out fact from myth, and revealing the life of an extraordinary individual whose real story is more compelling than the myth which emerged in the years after his death.

Johnny Appleseed: St. Francis or Steve Jobs?

When John “Appleseed” Chapman died in Indiana in 1845, stories of the eccentric apple tree planter survived in the oral traditions of dozens of Midwestern communities where he had spent his life. In the decades after his death, many of these stories made it into print in regional histories and national magazines, and the legend of Johnny Appleseed was born.  While many elements of the legend have remained the same over the last one hundred and sixty years, every generation has found its own uses for the Johnny Appleseed story, reinterpreting the meaning of John Chapman’s life. This talk will examine some of the most persistent variants of the Johnny Appleseed story, including one which portrays Chapman as a selfless and self-denying St. Francis and one which characterizes him as a visionary entrepreneur in the mold of that other apple salesman, Steve Jobs.


To Schedule a presentation , Please contact:

William Kerrigan kerrigan@muskingum.edu

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